Welcome to Book of Odds


Book of Odds is a new type of reference. Book of Odds is also quite large. You might be asking yourself, “Well, where do I start?” If this is the case, please continue reading.

How to find specific information on Book of Odds

Underlying Book of Odds is an ever-expanding semantic database of probabilities. Traversing this ocean of knowledge can be both fun and overwhelming. Here are some suggestions to help you find what you are looking for:

Select what you are searching for: Odds or Articles.

  • If you are searching for an Odds Statement, go to “SEARCH FOR” above the search window and click “ODDS.”
  • If you are searching for an article or blog, go to “SEARCH FOR” above the search window and click “ARTICLES.”

You may narrow the results of your search by topic, location, content type, and author.

  • When searching for Odds you may combine keywords and odds values:
  • Try health insurance or accidents 1 in 100,000.
  • You may use any of several notations:
  • 1 in 100, .01, 1/100, and 99:1 will all give you the same results.
  • You may also set an odds range in your search:
  • Try 1 in 10 to 1 in 15 or breakfast 1/20 – 1/50.
  • There are many easy ways to narrow search results:
  • You may narrow or expand the range of odds using the range setter on the top left beneath “Refine Results.”
  • You may narrow by topic using the tags in the box beside the search results.

If you click on one of these you get a subset of search results related to that topic. The topic name turns red and if clicked again returns you to the original search, so you may toggle or try additional narrowing paths.If the topical narrowing includes additional subtopics, these will appear in the “Narrow by Topic(s)” box and you may further narrow your search.

  • Try this example to see how it works.
  • Narrow your search by demographic characteristics:
  1. Gender
  2. Race
  3. Ethnicity
  4. Marital Status
  5. Educational Attainment
  6. Age
  7. Income
  • Narrow your search by geography: You may narrow by country, region, and states.
  1. Although the majority of Odds today on Book of Odds come from US data, there is data from around the world. Indeed, it is our ambition to expand our database internationally since geographic comparisons will prove endlessly fascinating.

For those who wish to navigate the landscape of Odds in a more free-form way, there is the option of Visual Browse. This way of exploring is full of surprises and can be quite addicting.

  • If you click on “Visual Browse” a network will appear with a randomly selected node at the center in BOLD BLACK CAPITAL LETTERS.
  • If you wish to select your own keyword to begin, you may do so by entering it into the Visual Browse search window at the upper right of the page.
  • The central term is surrounded by five white circles, each representing an Odds Statement.
  1. If you click on the circle the Odds Statement will appear in the box to the right, keeping a record of your exploration.
  2. If you click on the Odds Statement you will get more detail about it, including a visual representation and source information.
  3. Each circle is surrounded by terms in blue which are used in the Odds Statement, giving you a sense of its drift.
  4. If you click on one of these outer terms it will shift to the center of the network and become a new node for continued exploration and navigation.

How to find general information on a topic of interest

To fulfill our mission of providing the odds of everyday life, we conduct research in many different topical areas. To date, we have researched over 50 topics and are always adding more. Book of Odds is organized around broad groupings of these topics and every piece of content on Book of Odds is indexed into a topical area. This provides users an easy way to browse contextually related content.

  • Browse by topic – Book of Odds contains four main topical portals, Health & Illness, Accidents & Death, Relationships & Society, and Daily Life & Activities. Each section contains many sub-topics. For example, if you are interested in learning about Health, you can start in the Health & Illness portal!
  • Browse by tag – Along with our topical indexing, every piece of content is assigned descriptive tags. Readers can use these tags to explore different cross-sections of Book of Odds.
  • Read an article – Book of Odds produces a brand of editorial content and analysis that is unique to the web. We take a new perspective on topics of broad interest. We have writers who have been published in Scientific American, New Scientist, Smithsonian, The Economist, the LA Times and the Washington Post, among others. Our only requirement of an article is that it be exceedingly interesting. A great way to get to know what Book of Odds is all about is by reading an article, or several.
  • Read a blog – Book of Odds has three regularly updated blogs. The founder’s blog, written by our President and Founder, Amram Shapiro. The staff blog, written by anyone on our staff with something interesting to say. And the corporate blog, which focuses on company specific news and developments. The best way to understand the people that bring you Book of Odds is by reading one of our blogs!

How to Get Involved with Book of Odds

It is our intent to build a vibrant community and to promote intelligent discourse around topics of interest. Here are some ways you can get involved.

  • Create an account – Registering with Book of Odds is the first step to unlocking the full functionality of the site. By registering you get to create a My Book of Odds page with which you can save, group, and share anything of interest to you.
  • Suggest an Odds Statement – Our researchers are constantly churning out new content, but it is impossible for us to imagine all the great areas for exploration. You can help us by suggesting ideas to be researched or data sources to investigate. The best part is you will be credited for any Odds Statements that are a result of your suggestion. They say “diffused knowledge immortalizes itself.” Well, here’s your chance!
  • Report an Error – Like any first attempt at a project this big, Book of Odds is unfinished and imperfect. In fact, Book of Odds will never be “finished,” but will continuously grow and expand. We are cognizant of this fact and consider transparency and honesty to be fundamental to our mission. Every Odds Statement is double and triple checked for accuracy and precision. However, we expect some errors to slip through the cracks. We would love for users to help us build a better Book of Odds by reporting any errors they find. We will do our best to correct them rapidly.
  • Comment – We want to hear what’s on your mind! You can join the discussion and interact with staff and other users by commenting on Odds, articles, and blog posts.

How to take Book of Odds to the next level

Book of Odds is full of astonishing facts and interesting stories. Here are some great suggestions for digging down a layer and fully realizing the value of Book of Odds.

  • Find interesting and unexpected connections – We are constantly amazed by the accidental connections we make exploring Book of Odds. Something special happens when you begin connecting events by nothing more than their likelihood of occurrence. You see things in a light you’ve never before considered and things take on new meaning. We try to highlight these strange, surprising, and sometimes eerie connections in our articles, but we will never find them all. Our work outpaces our ability to stop and connect all the dots. For this, we need your help.
  • Create your “Odds of Me” – Every Odds Statement is accompanied by a small red button called the “Like Me Button.” The “Like Me Button” allows users to find themselves in Book of Odds. You might come across, “the odds a person is a surfer are 1 in N” and say to yourself, “gee wiz, I love to Surf, I am that 1 in N. Those are the odds of me!” We’ve given you the tools to create your own personalized Book of Odds, full of statements that apply directly to you. Every time you click the “Like Me Button” the corresponding statement is saved to your My Book of Odds page where it can be examined, analyzed, and shared with friends and family. Before long, you’ll develop a good understanding of the odds of you – and how cool is that?
  • Create Custom Lists – We also allow registered users to create custom lists of Odds Statements. These can be about anything at all. Are you researching a term paper? Create a list. Are you writing an article for the New Yorker or The Economist? Create a list and tell your impecunious editor it was free. Do you have an argument for which you need ammunition? Create a list. Are you making funny Christmas cards to send to your friends? Create a list. Are you trying to better understand a family member or special someone? Create a list. Essentially, we allow you to organize and share Book of Odds in any way that you want.
  • Share your experiences with a friend – As you’ve probably noticed, every bit of content on Book of Odds is made to be shared. Odds Statements can be sent in e-cards, they can be added to Facebook, Digg, Delicious, or a plethora of other similar sites. The same with articles, threads, and lists. You can even print Odds Statements on t-shirts! We want all-the-world to share in this new resource, and we hope you’ll help.
  • Learn to calibrate probability – If you haven’t read our mission, check it out. We like to have fun at Book of Odds but this is something we truly believe in and take seriously. We want to help people of all walks of life to better understand the world and to make more informed decisions. They say people cannot intuitively understand probability. We disagree, and we mean to prove them wrong. We hope that Book of Odds will be a step toward a greater general understanding of uncertainty, and how it affects our daily lives.

What is an Odds Statement?

An Odds Statement is the basic unit of Book of Odds. It is a concise statement of probability, of the form:

The odds a person will be struck by lightning in a year are 1 in 835,500 (US, 1995-2007.)

Think of an Odds Statement as analogous to an entry in a dictionary. It follows a consistent set of conventions making it easy to understand and compare to any other. A good Odds Statement contains all the information needed to be understood independently. Every Odds Statement is accompanied by source information and glossary terms. We do our best to make Odds Statements easy to understand by translating specialist terms into everyday language.

Book of Odds contains hundreds of thousands of carefully researched Odds Statements. Every Odds Statement in Book of Odds is evaluated and graded for the quality of its underlying data. Even so, no Odds Statement is perfect or exact. It is an approximate representation of the world, based upon the best available data we can find. Odds Statements are meaningful in the aggregate and apply to a group, not an individual. We strongly caution against applying Odds Statements to personal situations.

How does calibration work?

The idea of calibration is central to the mission of Book of Odds. Despite common wisdom, we believe that people can learn to understand probability intuitively if given a consistent reference full of vivid examples to work with.

Simply put, calibration is learning by comparison. It is the act of understanding the unfamiliar by relating it to the familiar. Humans calibrate abstract notions every day, like temperature and pricing. Tell someone the temperature outside and he or she knows how to dress. Present someone with an absurdly high or low price for an item and they will immediately question it. Aren’t 77˚ F and $2.69 as abstract as 1 in 342 and .002? Of course they are and yet people understand them because they have experienced them. When told the odds a man over 50 will be diagnosed with heart disease (1 in 1.93) is roughly equivalent to the odds an adult is afraid of snakes (1 in 1.96), doesn’t one event shed light upon the other? If you answered yes, then you are beginning to calibrate probability.